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The Ultimate Inspiration to Keep on Working Toward Your Goals

Earlier this week, I shared details of my new foray into running. It’s still very early days for me and my new hobby but so far, I’m really enjoying it and am setting myself new little challenges week on week as I strive to improve. My goal for 2015 is to run  a 10k race, something I have never done before. As I begin to prepare myself for my challenge, I am massively inspired by a good friend of mine, Helen Scott, who I met nearly 15 years ago at university.

Helen has made huge changes to her health, fitness and lifestyle in just under five years – losing 13.5 stone/189lbs in weight and successfully completing London Marathon in 2014 being just two of her amazing achievements. She now lives in Sydney, Australia (lucky thing!) and I’m delighted that she is sharing her inspirational story here on the blog.

Helen’s story

IMG_4161In around 2011, I knew that something had to change as I wasn’t happy. I knew deep down that, even though I had denied it for years, that thing was my weight.  Diets had been endlessly tried but with very little success. I now know this was purely due to my love of food and not diets.  However, one thing I had never tried was exercise.

I began by doing workout routines. The most I could do in the early days was the warm up!  However, I powered through them week after week.  I replaced the bad takeaways with healthier versions and along with my workout DVDs, the weight started to come off. I began by shutting myself in my bedroom, with people under strict instructions to never enter the room.  But as I became more confident and a pro at the likes of Davina McCall and Ministry of Sound’s workout routines, I made it into the main living area with more space to do my thing!

I recall a day where it was really hot and sunny.  We lived by water so I would often see people running outside and I wished I had the confidence to run like them. I told my Dad this, who is an amazing inspiration to me when it comes to running – still running at 60!  He said he wanted to go running with me and so we planned to run as much as I could and then walk when I needed to walk. He would stick with me, doing it at my pace.  That day I ran probably about 200 metres before I had to walk again. This continued for the whole run and it was hard.  However, that didn’t stop me and I continued that route on a weekly basis and got better each time.

That route was about 3k. I remember the feeling when I ran the whole way without stopping. That’s when you know what an achievement you’ve made.  I extended the route to 5k and later 7k.

However, I knew that the Great Manchester 10k was coming up and decided that I wanted to be part of it.  So I applied.  I started training, which meant that I would go out running more frequently, probably about four times a week.  The day arrived and I was nervous but also excited.  I also managed to raise money for Alzheimers, a charity close to my heart, so I had a good incentive to complete the run.  One hour and three minutes later I had completed by first ever 10k run and I was in a state of shock about my time.  I was so happy.  It is definitely on my list of best days of my life.  And that was it!  I had officially caught the running bug!

I set my sights on a three-year plan.  The 10k was completed, the next year I wanted to do a half marathon and the year after that I wanted to try and do a marathon.

One year later, I conquered the Sheffield Half Marathon at one hour and 58 minutes.  Again, another great day and a challenge to add to my list of achievements.

image1I continued running and was thinking about what marathon I would do and if anything, whether I could even run a marathon.  However, in December 2013, Children with Cancer asked my fiancé, Steve, to run for their charity.  Steve immediately told them about my background and asked if they would give me a place.  I know how hard it is to get a place for the London Marathon so was overwhelmed that they gave me a place too. I, of course, would do it and I would give it my all, however long it would take.

I would say the training was the hardest.  It was throughout winter and the cold frosty mornings and wet late evenings were tough.  I also started to pick up knee injuries so the training became punishing.  However, 13 April 2014 came around and I achieved my final challenge with a time of four hours and 52 minutes.

Running is now part of my life and daily routine.  It relieves my boredom and is part of my ‘me’ time.  It also releases my inner competitor, someone I never knew existed.  I compete only against myself though and my challenges now consist of being faster.

It has, of course, also helped me to lose weight whilst still being able to fit in a pepperoni pizza now and again.  I’ve lost a total of 13 ½ stone and have recently undergone excess skin surgery, which I joke will make me more aerodynamic!

“I want to motivate and show people who think that they’ll be unfit and/or overweight forever that they must never accept that.”

I want to remain fit and I want to run faster and see what else I can achieve.  I would love to do a marathon again and have my hopes set on New York.  I want to motivate and show people who think that they’ll be unfit and/or overweight forever that they must never accept that.  I was almost that person and will never let that happen again.

My advice to a new beginner or people thinking about doing it is just go out, take it easy, run when you can and walk when you need to.  Then repeat.  Whether it’s once a week or four times a week. Just keep going and don’t give up.

Thank you so much, Helen, for sharing your story! This is true inspiration for anyone to strive towards their goals, whatever they may be.

Helen is really keen to help motivate and encourage others who are looking to make a change to their lifestyle and fitness. She has recently created an Instagram page to offer support and daily motivation. Follow her at: https://instagram.com/pursuit_of_perfection_

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New Adventures in Running

After years of threatening to do so, I have finally taken up running as my primary form of exercise. And do you know what? I’m enjoying it loads more than I thought I would! So, why have I done it now? Well, I guess it’s a combination of the following factors:

  • I appreciate that I need to exercise but I hate gyms – like, HATE them. I don’t like not being able to get a space in the classes I want to go to, I don’t like being in the gym itself when you just want to get on the treadmill/cross trainer/rowing machine (delete as appropriate) but can’t because they’re all taken, which inevitably results in me sloping off home in an annoyed, defeated slump, and I certainly don’t like chucking £30+ a month down the drain when I just don’t end up going to the gym at all;
  • I like the idea of exercising outdoors – especially in summer – and going on a mini adventure as I exercise, rather than looking at a TV screen or the row of bums on the treadmills in front of me as I slog away, has begun to appeal to me more and more;
  • After taking part in the Race for Life 5k runs for the past two years in a row with friends, I have grown to like the idea of setting myself a personal challenge, and one which means I can raise money for a good cause at the same time.

So, after a few months of stop/start attempts to run regularly, I have recently fallen into a routine where I factor running into my week and so far, so good! My goal for 2015 is to run a 10k and so to ensure I actively work towards this goal and don’t let it slide, I recently signed up to the Great Yorkshire Run in my home city of Sheffield on September 27 – this should be enough time to work towards a 10k standard!

I’ve found the RunKeeper app to be great for logging my activities and tracking my very slow but steady progress. I’m currently running one, maybe two times mid-week and I tend to run along the river near my home. I’m hoping the lighter nights will mean that I can up the frequency of my mid-week runs as I’ll be no longer dashing to get home and changed before darkness falls.

Discovering Parkrun

Another great discovery I’ve made is Parkrun, the free, weekly 5km timed running craze that is sweeping the UK – and the world! To be honest, I’m pretty late to the Parkrun party as it’s been a popular Saturday morning activity for many people for quite some time. I attended my first Parkrun – the Sheffield Hallam one – in November 2013 when I really hadn’t done much running at all. I came 20th from the end out of 480 people, I found it pretty hard and I wasn’t massively inspired to do it again any time soon. In 2014, despite doing Race for Life and attempting a few runs with a friend throughout the summer months, I only made it to one Parkrun – this time at Hillsborough Park. I fared better than my previous attempt and felt more motivated to do it again but life just gets in the way sometimes and 9am on a Saturday morning can seem frighteningly early when you have Friday night plans that involve eating, drinking and not going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Recently however, as my confidence in my running abilities has grown slightly, I’ve made some time to go along to my local Parkrun at Hillsborough Park more regularly and I am loving it! I’ve managed to get a personal best (PB) time for the past two weeks and last Saturday, the nervous excitement I experienced as I waited for the results from the run to come in really surprised me. I’m not at all competitive with other people and have no desire to run faster than anyone else but I have discovered that I am really determined to improve and beat my own time week on week. A 9am start on a Saturday morning is early and there are going to be times when I’ll miss the run due to other reasons, but the sense of wellbeing I’ve experienced after my recent Parkruns – feeling energised after a great bit of exercise and knowing the whole weekend still lay ahead – is amazing.

IMG-20150317-WA0023I love the supportive, community vibe at Parkrun, and the support even continues away from the park. Upon discovering that I had recently begun going along to Parkrun and had achieved two PBs, a colleague of mine who attends another Parkrun made me a little award to celebrate my PB! It turns out that she does this for all colleagues who achieve PBs and I love this, so much so that I am sharing the love and giving the sweet little awards to a couple of friends of mine who have been going to Parkrun and beaten their best times recently.

I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to running and I’m hoping I can keep this momentum going as a sustainable form of exercise. Who knows, after my first 10k I may be driven to push myself further, but I’m making no plans yet!

Watch this space…

I’m very much inspired in my new activity by a good friend of mine who has changed her life dramatically over recent years and running has become a big part of it for her. In my next blog post, published on Friday, she will be speaking about her amazing journey and  this will be sure to inspire other people who are new to running and exercise in general. It’s an inspirational story not to be missed!

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Spring is…

So, this morning saw the solar eclipse take place. This may or may not have been an impressive sight, depending on where you were in the world. Here in Sheffield, I must say it was more impressive than I expected it to be. Theo even took a moment out of his mouse/rat killing spree to sit on the windowsill and get a front-row view of the moon’s journey across the sun.

 

10403567_10152860265888031_6233167405417636122_nHere he is with his selfie-stick at the ready (irresponsible cat, don’t you know that no selfies are allowed during an eclipse! You might also want to attach a phone/camera to the end of that selfie-stick, mate).

Anyway, now that the excitement of the eclipse is over and my retinas remain *just* in tact (at least I hope so – yes, I looked directly at it for a couple of seconds… playing with fire, literally, I know), I’d like to know celebrate the fact that today, Friday 20 March 2015, marks the first day of SPRING!

That’s right, Winter has packed its bags and left the building, and new beginnings are all around us. Spring can mean many things to many people, here’s what Spring is to me (an eclectic mix):

1. Spring is… New beginnings

2. Spring is… Rejuvenation

3. Spring is… A fresh breeze

4. Spring is… Beautiful colours cropping up everywhere

5. Spring is… An opportunity to strive to become a better version of an already wonderful you – whether this be a commitment to eating well, exercising more, or making more time for yourself and your nearest and dearest

6. Spring is… Distant shores on the horizon, beckoning you

7. Spring is… Light evenings – and leaving work without the oppressive darkness hanging over you

8. Spring is… The promise of summer fun – picnics, BBQs, beer gardens with friends and festivals (all in moderation, of course – remember no. 5!)

9. Spring is… Good food and new seasonal recipes to try out

10. Spring is… Hope.

Make the most of Spring this year! I’d love to know, what does Spring mean to you?

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Living With a Killer

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Sadly, I am yet to be brought one of these mice.

It’s official – my sweet little kitten who loved playing with his ‘Mr Fish’ toys has gone and been replaced by a cold, bloodthirsty killer. Indeed, it’s fair to say that the last seven days have been a series of adventures with rats, mice and half-dead baby mice. And as a result, my nerves are in tatters!

It all started last Wednesday when Theo brought in his first ‘present’ for us – a live rat that promptly wedged itself under the fridge freezer as soon as it was released from the jaws of its captor. I can’t stand rats and would much rather he had brought me a pizza. For 30 minutes, a farce ensued as Steve and I attempted to coax the creature out from under the fridge freezer. Well, I say coax but I don’t think my approach – involving tortured, guttural screams every time I actually thought about the thing running out from under the fridge  – worked too well. It just resulted in Steve jumping out of his skin repeatedly at the sound of my screams and the little blighter under the fridge refusing even more firmly to come out to meet the wailing banshee waiting for it. It didn’t help that I was stood there post-shower with scarecrow hair, clutching a broom that I had used to poke under the fridge. Talk about witch-chic.

Anyhoo, sadly the rat didn’t leave the house with his life in tact after we accidentally squished it whilst trying to shake it out of the fridge. But that was that, once the incident was over we naively thought we could carry on with our lives.

How wrong we were. Little did we know our feline friend had developed a taste for this kind of stuff and decided to take his reign of terror to the next level, when he excitedly rolled through the cat flap at 1am on Monday morning with a dead mouse in his mouth. He attempted to bring his kill upstairs but was intercepted halfway up. Forty-five minutes later, he returned with a half-dead baby mouse that he dropped into his food bowl. ‘Mercy me, this cat is insatiable!’, I thought.

For the rest of the night, Theo was locked outside and since then, I have been approaching my cat with extreme caution every time I see him, afraid of what he could have dangling from his mouth. Every time I hear the rattle of the cat flap, my heart fills with dread.

Apparently this evening, whilst I was out, Theo brought another little mousey friend that Steve managed to successfully evacuate with its life still in tact.

I guess we should get used to this brave new world we are now living in. My ‘little baby Theo’ is gone. We are now living with… a killer.

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Lessons From 2014

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Earlier this week, I spotted a post over on the lovely Pouting in Heels blog about her reflections on 2014, along with a call for fellow bloggers to share what’s been happening in their world as part of the All About You link party. This year has been a real transitional year for me and I’ve learned a fair few things, so I thought I’d share my reflections from 2014 here (plus, it’s a good excuse to blog more – my super early ‘New Year’s resolution’, as such, is to breathe more life into this little blog!)

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Here are a few things I’ve discovered this year:

Living alone is not that scary after all

It’s really not. In fact, I’ve really enjoyed having my own space since I moved into a little place of my own just over a year ago. I’d always been quite terrified – seriously – about the thought of living alone. Who would I talk to when I got home? Could I cope financially? Would I just go crazy with no one but little old me for company?! Just over a year ago, I took the plunge and rented a place on my own after my relationship ended – it was that or move home to my parents and, at nearly 30, I really didn’t want to have to do that. The first few weeks were filled with tears and repeated asking of the question ‘WHY?!’ Slowly but surely, however, I realised it was actually nice to come home to my own space. I realised that I was really glad that I wasn’t living in a shared house situation after a few years of living with a partner (which is a different dynamic altogether), like I had done in my early twenties. Whilst living with friends can be ace, it was really nice to come home from work and not wait for a slot in the kitchen or living room whilst a housemate cooked their tea or watched a crap TV programme. Of course, I now have my little housemate Theo, who comes with his own quirks (demanding food, waking me up in the night for cuddles and, as he is doing at the moment, eyeing up the Christmas tree) but he’s the loveliest housemate I could wish for!

It can take longer to get from A to B than you think

When you’ve felt stuck in a certain part of your life for so long, you can feel so eager, and desperate at times, to move things forward in life and move on to a happier place. After making massive changes in my life over the course of the past 12 months, I’ve been so keen to feel ‘moved on’, to feel  changed for the better and I’ve felt downright frustrated and impatient when the realisation has hit me – repeatedly – that you cannot just flick a switch and move from A to B in your life. As the saying goes, ‘Never give up. Great things take time.’ I’m beginning to get this now.

You can’t control other people’s actions and behaviours, but you can control your reaction to them

This one I’m still working on a little. One or two things have happened this year that have been unexpected and whilst I’m fully aware and accepting of the fact that people will always do what  they want to do, I’ve really let myself get upset on a few occasions this year, when I’ve felt at my most vulnerable, about things that people have said or done. Chances are, they’ve not been aware of how I’ve felt but when I just don’t ‘get’ why someone in my life has said or done something, I can really internalise this and ‘stew’ on it. I’m fast realising that the only person who is getting hurt here is me. Sure, if someone close to me has done something that I genuinely think is quite hurtful then I have a right to express that emotion. But the thing is, you can’t always predict what other people are going to do, so unless it’s something really hurtful they’ve done towards you, then it’s not worth beating yourself up over. Plus, everyone is dealing with their own thing, so it’s worth questioning why they are behaving, or have behaved, in the way they have – they might actually need some support from you.

Turning 30 is really ok

I hit the big 3 – 0 in June and like I’m sure a few people have felt, I was pretty apprehensive in the run up to it. Scared of leaving my twenties behind, also a little scared of where I was at in my life as I approached the milestone. Shouldn’t I have, or be on the track towards, marriage and kids at this age? Well actually no, I’m living my life in the best way I can, in a way that feels right for me. Here comes another saying:  ‘You are right where you are meant to be.’

Hang on to your loved ones

Don’t take them for granted. Their love and support is priceless through tricky times and it brings a lot of joy, and brings you closer together, when you can return that support. I’ve learned to appreciate the special people in my life this year. I’ve also learned that just because you don’t hear from some friends very often, it doesn’t mean you’re not in their thoughts and vice versa. Sometimes life just gets in the way, which is why you don’t often hear from some people, so reach out more to those you care about.

The only person who stops you from feeling amazing is YOU

Again, I’m still learning on this one. At times, I can beat myself up incredibly about all the things I’m NOT doing. It’s tiring when I’m having this internal battle and, again, I’m the only one who’s suffering. Self-awareness and growth is good, really good, but ruminating too much on your supposed failings is damaging. I’m now trying to be more kind to myself, think about all the good things I AM doing. So, the final saying I’m sharing is:

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One Year with Theo

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Just over a year ago, I moved into a little house on my own. Even though I was pushing 30, this was a huge step for me as I had just come out of a long-term relationship and had never lived on my own. I was heartbroken and my head was all over the place.

A few weeks after I had set up home, my new housemate moved in – eight-week-old little female kitten, Theo. I had never had a kitten before and in fact, had never had a pet that I was solely responsible for but I thought it would be something I would like to do.

I had planned to wait until I was a bit more acclimatised to my new situation before I got a kitten but whilst on a lunch break one day, I spotted an advert stating: ‘two kittens ready in six weeks, one black, one black and white.’ So, my sister and I went to see the kittens and ended up reserving them, with my sister taking the male black kitten (who is now named Earl) and I reserved the black and white girl.

When Theo came home, I quite honestly wondered if I’d done the right thing. I was aware it would take a while for her to settle but for the first week my kitten wouldn’t come anywhere near me, she would hiss if I made a move towards her, and she cried the house down most of the time. I came home from work at lunchtime a few times to hear the cat meowing loudly before I’d even got into the house.

I was vulnerable and started to wonder if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. What if the cat never took to me? What if I couldn’t afford to care for a cat now I was on my own? What have I done?

Another surprise came when I took Theo for her first routine vet appointment and found out that she was actually a HE. So, I had to get used to my kitten’s sex change.

Slowly but surely, things began to settle down. I remember the breakthrough moment when I was tentatively playing with a straw with Theo, keeping my respectful distance, when he made the move to rub his head on my hand. We were bonding! Before long, we were cuddling on the sofa and I was able to pick him up and give him a big kiss.

To those who aren’t cat fans, this may seem like a true crazy cat lady post but as I clock in one year with Theo, I’m reflecting on how wonderful it has been to have my own little cat. He has been great company and has made living alone for the first time bearable, and even enjoyable. At first, I was scared of having sole responsibility for a pet. Now, I love being my cat’s ‘mum’ (alright, simmer down all you cat naysayers) and I wouldn’t be without him!

Here are some of my favourite pics of Theo:

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Theo enjoy a cuddle with my dad (the famous dog lover) at Christmas.

 

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Lolcat – Theo’s first selfie.

 

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Theo’s first Christmas.

 

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Theo enjoying a cuddle with his brother Earl.

 

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It’s Not Enough To Just Survive

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Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing Sheffield’s home grown artist Neil McSweeney performing in a church on Psalter Lane. As ever, it was an amazing gig, enhanced by a brilliant warm up performance from the soulful Lost Brothers.

Many of Neil’s songs mean a lot to me and bring me to tears, so I thought I’d give him a shout on my humble old blog. The song I’m moved to share right now is Rope to Hang, which sounds an incredibly bleak title but whilst thought provoking, it’s not quite as grim as its title sounds.

Ironically, Neil didn’t sing this song tonight, although he said on stage that he nearly did, but I wanted to share this song in particular because the words have meant a lot to me over the last couple of years. Particularly profound are the words “it can’t be long til you realise it’s not enough to just survive.” So, try and find what makes you happy and go for it, don’t just ‘survive.’